Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
Story by Keenan Taylor/ Contributing Writer
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-1) took on the Toledo Rockets (3-2) Saturday night at the Municipal Auditorium for the second time in five days. Spectacular nights from JaCorey Williams and Giddy Potts helped guide Middle Tennessee to an overtime 70-73 win and clinch the Challenge in Music City title.
Williams had a career-high 31 points on the night, marking the first 30 point game for a Blue Raider since Reggie Upshaw’s 32 last year against Trevecca. Williams also added seven rebounds and a pair of steals. Potts posted 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The Blue Raiders started off the game slow, falling behind 7-2 in the early going.
Junior Forward Brandon Walters came off the bench and gave Middle its first lead early on, 8-7, however Toledo would soon reclaim the lead with a pair of inside baskets.
The offense would continue to struggle as halftime loomed before a Potts’ three cut the lead within 10, sending Middle into the break trailing 30-22.
Quick strikes from Williams and Potts were able to bring the Blue Raiders within four to start the second half, but the Rockets responded with a three ball to push their lead back up to seven.
Midway through the half, Middle Tennessee stormed back to get within one point of Toledo off a transition layup by Potts. The Rockets, however, would not let their foot off the gas as they kept making tough shots.
Toledo pushed the lead back up to 5 as the last media timeout approached, but Middle Tennessee would rattle off another run.
Xavier Habersham gave MT the lead with a conventional three point play at the 2:59 mark before Reggie Upshaw scored to push the Blue Raiders lead to three.
It was back and fourth in final two minutes before Potts dropped in a layup with six seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Potts kept his strong play going as he opened up the overtime scoring with a trey followed by a Williams basket to give MT a five point lead.
Toledo would come within one point, but could never regain the lead from Middle Tennessee in the overtime period as the Blue Raiders went on to win the contest by three
With head-to-head wins over UNC Wilmington and Toledo, Middle Tennessee will take home its second tournament trophy in three years.
Middle Tennessee faces Evansville in the tournament finale tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.
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